A Beautiful Mind - rated - SIMMERING
In Two Minds
It is ironic, but I am in two minds about this film. First, I see a film
in which the tragedy of schizophrenia is shown in a most sympathetic way,
and the human story is ultimately triumphant, in a measured kind of way.
But then I see a film in which a man's life story is told, but it may
have conveniently left out some of the more difficult details (there's some
doubt about that too, now). So if it is now fiction, how can it
be biography? Does it matter?
Ron Howard's film does many things well. First, it casts Russell Crowe in
a difficult role: John Nash is a difficult man to love, and Crowe has to
gain our sympathies early on so that we will stay with him through the difficult
times of his illness. Crowe does this magnificently, and ages 47 years to
boot. The aging man in the film is by far the best I've ever seen. Was some
of it digital?
Next, Howard shows the delusions of Nash in a most inventive and effective
way. It is a physical shock when the truth is revealed. Some of the other
visual effects in the film are just glorious: a ray of light refracting
off a punchbowl and hitting a man's tie, for example. And the way Howard
shows Nash's analyses of mathematical problems is also a standout.
In A Beautiful Mind, Howard makes us understand how frightening it
must be to see and hear people who aren't really there. In doing so he does
an important service for those with schizophrenia. He gives the schizophrenic
a human face: Crowe's.
The story Howard tells is not the whole story. Before he married Alicia,
Nash had a mistress who had his child. Some have suggested that he had
affairs with men too (but he denies this). The story leaves all of this
out, and quite frankly, I think the story would have been better had it
dealt with more of the uncomfortable parts of Nash's life - whether it be
his child by another woman, or any of the other, more messy, details. Although
the film moved me, I also found myself, at times, looking at my watch. I
think Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldman, oversimplified the story in
order to make the main point. In doing so they have condescended to viewers,
and that's a grave mistake.
© Michèle M Asprey 2002
This review is copyright. You must not use any part without my permission.